Module 11 - Radio Equipment Basics
- Reading Assignment
- Introduction to Module 11
- Single Band Transceiver
- Dual Band Transceiver
- Multi mode Transceiver
- Rig Vocabulary
- Transceiver Left Side Panel Controls & Functions
- Transceiver Right Side Panel Controls & Functions
- Quiz 3
- Recommended Reading
Read Chapter 5, Pages 5-1 to 5-7 in your text before you continue.
Introduction to Module 11
Review Module 3 - The basic Radio System through Hand Held Radios. Our intent is not to repeat that information in this module, but instead go into detail about the typical features of radio equipment.
The figures will include radios from major ham radio manufacturers such as Alinco, ICOM, Kenwoood & Yaesu. I am not endorsing any particular brand or model and will attempt to show products from all these manufacturers.
Don't be intimidated by this chapter. Although there is a lot of information, not all of it is on the exam. You might want to review the material, take the quiz, and then review the specific material again.
By this time you should have visited your local Ham Radio Club and probably found a mentor 'Elmer' who is willing to help you. Don't be shy, they won't usually offer help and information unless you ask. Ask to see someone's rig, most are more than happy to show you their rig and preferences. They will probably offer to let you operate the rig, and make some on-the-air contacts!
I have included additional information that I think you would like to know about equipment that is beyond just passing the test. This will help you in getting your equipment & enjoying the hobby. The quiz questions will let you know what you need to pass the exam.
Remember, obtaining your Technician Ham License does not "make" you an amateur radio operator. It's the beginning of a long but fun journey. Just like your first driver's license, after obtain your amateur license, you need to keep learning. It really helps you enjoy your new hobby even more.
Single Band Transceiver
Designed primarily as a single purpose mobile radio on a single band, the most common type of starter rig is a single band transceiver. It is small and compact. It is usually limited to the Frequency Modulation (FM) mode of operation. Available on either 2 meters (144 Mhz) or 70 centimeters (440 Mhz). It can be operated as a mobile using 12 volts dc directly or as a portable or fixed base station by adding an optional external power supply. Of course, it will require an external antenna. It is approximately 50 watts RF power output. All modern transceivers have many memory channels so you can easily go to often used frequencies including repeater channels.
Dual Band Transceiver
Same as the single band transceiver with a single (FM) mode, but includes additional band(s). Cost & size are a little higher. Most common are 2 meter and 70 cm bands. This particular model also has a detachable front panel so the main unit can be mounted under the seat or elsewhere, while the front panel, which is very small can be mounted anywhere convenient.
Power output may be slightly higher.
May have separate antenna outputs for each band, which allows installation of a more efficient antenna for each band with out the need to do any switching of antennas.
Multi mode/Multi band Transceiver
Main difference is that these rigs can operate on all major modes SSB/AM/FM, CW, Data, RTTY etc. They have more features add complexity and cost. More flexible of the rigs that will allow you to explore new modes as you gain experience & get your General Ticket.
Covers many bands including HF/VHF/UHF. Frequently 100 watts on HF, some power limitations on high frequency bands (50 watts).
Has a detachable control panel as it is designed primarily as a mobile unit operating on 13.8 VDC. The addition of a 115 VAC / 13.8 VDC power supply and a base antenna it quickly becomes a fixed base station.
A Multi-Mode VHF transceiver is the most useful for VHF weak-signal communication, because you can change to the frequencies and modes that offers the best propagation.
We will now go through some jargon and vocabulary specific to the functions and controls of a transmitter and receiver. This is a way to discuss how to operate a transceiver. These controls, though separate, are combined in a transceiver
When I taught this class live, there were comments that the students thought there would be more learning how the transceiver worked. So I am including this expanded information.
Because many more of the mode and feature controls are on the front panel, rather than buried in a menu, we will use a transceiver mainly used as a base unit. This unit is larger, heavier & more expensive, of course. Some features are only available on a large unit. (I'll explain those feature in the following paragraphs)
There are additional features and options that are programmed into the radio through the menus, using the LCD screen and input buttons. We will not cover many of them at this time. If you really want to know all about a multi-band, multi-mode transceiver, do a Google Search for the user manual for the model in which you are interested.
The following figures and explanations are of the ICOM IC-746Pro Multi-Mode, Multi Band Base Station Transceiver
As I said before this is much more information than you need to pass the test. The features you need to pay particular attention to, because they are exam questions they will be in "BLUE FONT".
Left Front PanelThe figure M11-5 shows the left front panel.
- 1. Power Switch
- Turns Radio On & Off
- 2. Transmit Switch
- This is a manual transmit switch. Used for tuning or if your mike does not have a push-to-talk (PTT) Button.
- 3. Headphone Jack (phones)
- This is the jack where you put headphones, which can be used in place of a regular speaker to help you copy signals in a noisy area.
- 4. ELECTRONIC KEYER JACK [ELEC-KEY]
- Accepts a paddle to activate the internal electronic keyer for CW operation. The electronic keyer sends dits or dahs depending on the position of the paddles (right or left).
- 5. Microphone Jack.
- This jack is where you connect your microphone. The connectors are not standard from radio manufacturers or even models of the same brand. However, most of them provide voltage for mike operations, keying for PTT (push-to-talk), and audio connections.
- 6.RF Gain/Squelch Control
- Adjusts the RF gain and squelch threshold level. The RF gain controls a receive radio frequency amplifer, that amplifies the weak receive signal before it goes to the first mixer of the radio. It is just after the pre-amplifer, to which the antenna is connected. The squelch removes noise output from the speaker (closed condition) when no signal is received. In other words it mutes the receiver output noise when no signal is being received.
- It works best on FM and ok on other modes. The squelch for FM this knob controls is just the carrier squelch. Carrier squelch means it opens and you hear any FM signal present on the frequency.
- FM can also use a tone coded squelch (and usually does on repeaters), where you will only hear signals that are accompanied by a low sub-audible tone that unlocks the receiver.
- 7. Mike Gain
- This controls a built in microphone amplifer to boost the audio from the microphone before it goes to modulate the transmitter. This amplifer compensates for mikes that have very low output levels. It is possible to have the gain too high and this will cause distortion in the transmitter modulation.
- Set the [MIC] control so that the ALC meter sometimes swings during normal voice transmission in SSB mode. Make sure that voice peak readings do not exceed the ALC range brackets on the meter if your transmitter has them. Ask others to monitor your signal and keep the gain well below where it distorts.
- A quick way to quit distorting because of too much gain is to talk further away from the microphone, but proper adjustments should be made.
- 8. AF CONTROL [AF] (inner control)
- Varies the audio output level to the speaker. This is just how loud you want the volume. It does not change the signal being received any other way.
- 9.RF POWER CONTROL [RF PWR]
- Continuously varies the RF output power from minimum (less than 5 Watts) to maximum (100 Watts).
- 10. CW PITCH CONTROL [CW PITCH]
- Shifts the received CW audio pitch and monitored CW audio pitch without changing the operating frequency. Note: Most receivers don't have this control available. Usually the RIT control (see RIT) is used to perform this function
- 11. ELECTRONIC CW KEYER SPEED CONTROL
- Adjusts the internal electronic CW keyer's speed from 6 wpm (min.) to 60 wpm (max.). See Item 4.
- 12. AUTO NOTCH/MANUAL NOTCH SWITCH also see 13.
- Toggles the notch function between off, manual and automatic when pushed.
- 13. NOTCH CONTROL [NOTCH] (outer control) works with 12.
- Adjusts the notch filter frequency to remove an interfering signal. If you were to look at the bandwidth (how wide a signal you are receiving)this filter will attenuate just a portion of this bandwidth. Not really effective on FM, but PSK or SSB it is very effective in blocking out signals very close to the one you want to receive.
- 14. ANTENNA SELECTOR SWITCH [ANT]
- Switches the antenna connector selection between ANT1 and ANT2 jacks when pushed.
- 15. NOISE REDUCTION LEVEL CONTROL [NR](also see 17.)
- Noise reducers are supposed to work by filtering out parts of the received audio that are more prevalent in noise than in the wanted signal.
- 16. Antenna Tuner Switch [Tuner]
- This switch turns off the automatic internal antenna tuner inside the radio.
- 17. NOISE REDUCTION SWITCH (also see 15)
- Switches the noise reduction ON and OFF.
Right Front PanelThe figure M11-6 shows the right front panel.
- 18. MULTI-FUNCTION SWITCHES [F1]-[F5]
- You push to select the function indicated in the LCD display above these switches. Their function changes depending on the menu selected & operating mode.
- 19. MENU SWITCH [MENU]
- Push to change the set of functions assigned to the multi-function switches.
- 20. MODE SWITCHES
- Selects the desired mode.
- SSB - Selects USB and LSB mode & a narrow USB & narrow LSB (used for PSK etc) alternately.
- CW/RTTY Selects CW and RTTY mode alternately.
- AM/FM Selects AM and FM mode alternately.
- 21. Preamp/Attenuator Switch P.AMP/ATT - Preamp
- Switches between preamps - no preamps - or an attenuator. This is a receiver pre-amp that is in between the antenna and the first RF amplifer.
- 22. Noise Blanker (NB)
- A noise blanker is a circuit that looks for sharp pulses, such as may be caused by car ignition interference, and mutes the receiver for their duration so that they are literally blanked out.
- 23. VOX/BREAK-IN SWITCH [VOX/BK-IN]
- Selects VOX, which is voice activated transmit. You can just talk into your mike and the transceiver switches into the transmit mode, used in SSB, AM and FM modes; In CW activates the receiver between transmitted dots and dashes. This is useful when operating in nets, or during DX (calling distant stations) pile ups and during contests,
- 24. Monitor Switch
- This switch allows you to actually hear the transmit modulation (audio) while transmitting.
- 25. FILTER SWITCH [FILTER]
- Selects one of 3 IF filter settings. The IF is the intermediate frequency amplifer. When using a superheterodyne receiver all signals are mixed down to a common if frequency. This allows specialized amplifiers and expensive filters to be used.
- This allows the operator to select the narrowest bandwidth appropriate for the mode. This permits noise or interference reduction by selecting a bandwidth matching the mode bandwidth. For example a cw filter should be about 500 Hz, while a SSB filter should be about 2400 Hz.
- 26. CALL SWITCH [CALL]
- Selects the call channel when pushed momentarily. The call channel is a frequency the operator selects and programs into the radio. It allows for a high priority or often used frequency to be selected instantly.
- 27. TUNING DIAL
- This is one place where you can enter desired operating frequencies.
- 28 LOCK SWITCH [LOCK/SPCH]
- Push momentarily to toggle the dial lock function, so if you bump it the frequency will not change.
- 29. RIT/ΔTX CONTROL [RIT/ΔTX]
- Shifts the receive and/or transmit frequency without changing the transmit and/or receive frequency when the RIT and/or ΔTX functions are ON.
- 30. RIT SWITCH [RIT]
- Turns the RIT function ON and OFF when pushed.
- [What is the RIT function? The RIT (Receiver Incremental Tuning) shifts the receive frequency without shifting the transmit frequency. This is useful for fine tuning stations calling you on an off-frequency or when you prefer to listen to slightly different sounding voice characteristics, etc. This is especially useful for changing the pitch of SSB signals and CW signals]
- 31. CLEAR SWITCH [CLEAR]
- Clears the RIT/ΔTX shift frequency when pushed.
- 32. ΔTX SWITCH [ΔTX]
- Turns the ΔTX function ON and OFF when pushed. Use the [RIT/ΔTX] control to vary the ΔTX frequency.
- [What is the ΔTX function? The ΔTX shifts the transmit frequency without shifting the receive frequency. This is useful for simple split frequency operation in CW, etc.
- 33. MEMORY CHANNEL SELECTOR [M-CH]
- Select a memory channel, which are pre-programmed memory channels. Very useful for frequently used channel/frequency/attributes like tone squelch etc.] It is a great place to enable quick access to your favorite frequency on your transceiver.
- 34. VFO/MEMORY SWITCH [VFO/MEMO]
- Switches the selected readout operating mode between the VFO mode and memory mode. VFO stands for Variable Frequency Oscillator or the dial frequency.
- 35. MEMORY CLEAR SWITCH [M-CL]
- Clears the selected readout memory channel contents
- 36. MEMORY WRITE SWITCH [MW]
- Stores the selected readout frequency and operating mode into the displayed memory channel.
- 37. PBT CLEAR SWITCH [PBTC]
- Clears the PBT settings. What is PBT. It is a variable band pass filter, actually 2 of them which can be moved to create a unique filter to help with getting rid of nearby unwanted signals.
Right Front Panel (continued)The figure M11-7 shows more about the right front panel.
- 38. TRANSMIT FREQUENCY CHECK SWITCH [XFC]
- Monitors the transmit frequency when pushed and held.
- 39. MEMO PAD-WRITE SWITCH [MP-W]
- Programs the selected readout frequency and operating mode into a memo pad. The Memo Pad is the key pad.
- 40. TRANSMIT INDICATOR [TX]
- Lights red while transmitting.
- 41. MEMO PAD-READ SWITCH [MP-R]
- Each push calls up a frequency and operating mode in a memo pad. The 5 (or 10) most recently programmed frequencies and operating modes can be recalled, starting from the most recent.
- 42. RECEIVE INDICATOR [RX]
- Lights green while receiving a signal if the squelch is open.
- 43. LOCK INDICATOR [LOCK]
- Lights when the dial lock function (28) is activated.
- 44. QUICK TUNING SWITCH [TS]
- Turns the quick tuning step ON and OFF. In other words TS changes fast off changes frequency slowly with the dial turning.
- 45. VFO SELECT SWITCH [A/B]
- Push to toggle between VFO A and VFO B., There are two VFO's that you can switch back and forth. It's like having 2 receivers
- 46. SPLIT SWITCH [SPLIT]
- Turns the split function ON and OFF when pushed. Allows use of the simplex repeater output frequency quickly
- 47. PASSBAND TUNING CONTROLS [TWIN PBT]
- Adjusts the receiver passband width of the DSP filters. Works with (37).
- 48. SPLIT INDICATOR
- Lights during split operation.
- >49. FREQUENCY INPUT SWITCH [F-INP]
- Push to toggle keypad input between frequency and band.
- 50. FREQUENCY INPUT INDICATOR
- Lights when frequency input from the keypad is enabled.
- 51. KEYPAD
- Pushing a key selects stuff, including entering operating frequencies.
- 52. LCD FUNCTION DISPLAY
- Shows the operating frequency, function switch menus, band scope screen, memory name screen,set mode settings, etc.
You will receive instant feedback to your answers and you will be able to see how you did on the quiz overall. Also you will be able to view a detailed summary of the questions.
All answers, whether right or wrong, will be referenced back to your text so you can review and correct any wrong answers.
Tips on how to remember the correct answer are included.
You can take the quiz as often as you wish.
No one but you will see the quiz results.
Hope this module was fun for you. It introduced you to some equipment controls & features. It gave you some information on what is available.
View the complete Technician Question Pool in Chapter 11 of your Ham Radio License Manual.
Review the complete Technician Question Pool with Hints to help you to remember the answers for the test available by clicking the last item on the left hand select menu.
Read, Read, Read. Many books are available from the ARRL. Many articles are also readily available on the internet.
Go to Ham Radio Outlet & Universal Radio websites and look at the various equipment available.
Go to the various manufacturers pages like Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood etc. and see what they offer.
There are several videos on You Tube. Do a search on Amateur Radio, Ham Radio Technician License, variations of these or on the exact subject matter in which you are interested.
Review the Term Glossary in Chapter 10 of your Ham Radio License Manual
Practice Exams are available at www.arrl.org/exam-practice and there are links to many other test practice sites also.